Ladies and fellas: Top 10 performances of 2014

Sometimes a film isn’t that great all the way through, but an individual performance stands out. Sometimes a film is carried along by that performance, by an actor knocking it out the park at the top of their game. And sometimes the film is great all the way through, but it goes up another level when buoyed by a stellar lead performance.

In 2014 there were a fair few of both of these. And in the interests of balance I’ve split them out into the fellas and the ladies. Where do you stand? Any missing you’d like to have seen?

THE LADIES
Rosamund Pike as Amy – Gone Girl
Scarlet Johansson as Laura – Under the Skin
Margot Robbie as Naomi Lapaglia – The Wolf of Wall Street
Jessica Chastain as Murph – Interstellar
Kiera Knightley as Joan Clarke – The Imitation Game

INTERSTELLAR

THE FELLAS
Jake Gyllenhaal as Lou Bloom – Nightcrawler
Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort – The Wolf of Wall Street
Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing – The Imitation Game
Matthew McConaughey as Ron Woodroof – Dallas Buyers Club
Iko Uwais as Rama – The Raid 2

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Best films of 2014: Haiku reviews

So here we go again. Will I never learn? As I did last year and the year before, here are my top films of the year in Haiku form. So, traditionally, that’s three lines. First with five syllables, then seven, then five. If you were convincing a studio to make your film, think of this as your elevator pitch.

It’s worth noting that, due to the tricky nature of these little things, they can occasionally head into spoiler territory.

Nightcrawler-Jake-Gyllenhaal-850x560Nightcrawler
An entrepreneur
with delusional issues
and a camcorder

The Wolf of Wall Street
After Wall Street crash
One guy rises to the top
Then loses it all

LIBRARY IMAGE OF GONE GIRLGone Girl
Amazing Amy
Frames her husband for murder
Gets away with it

Guardians of the Galaxy
Guy with a Walkman
Forms team of wacky heroes
to protect an orb

Herbensch
An oddball loner
Gets feelings for computer
She evolves, leaves him

Pride
Gays support miners
And build unlikely friendships
During strikes, AIDS, riotsTHE GUEST

The Imitation Game
Allies losing war
Turing cracks enigma code
Is gay and suffers

The Guest
Grieving family
welcome handsome stranger infilmz.ru
who then goes crazy

Interstellar
Earth almost ruined
Wormhole last chance to survive
Space and time confuse

Dallas Buyers Club
A cowboy gets AIDs
Sells drugs to fellow patients
A heartbreaking tale

Top 10 films of 2014

It’s starting to feel like these lists come round unsettlingly fast. Too darn often for my liking. However, it’s been a good year for those that love cinema. Some great stuff has hit the silver (or, increasingly, digital) screen over the last twelve months. Here’s my pick, from my top ten (you have to be ruthless) to ones on my ‘to watch’ list.

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THE TOP TEN
1. Nightcrawler
2. The Wolf of Wall Street
3. Gone Girl
4. Guardians of the Galaxy
5. Her
6. Pride
7. The Imitation Game
8. The Guest
9. Interstellar
10. Dallas Buyers Club

MY ‘TO WATCH’ LIST
Maps To The Stars
Two Faces of January
Chef
Cold In July
The Babadook
How To Train Your Dragon 2
The Raid 2
Starred Up
Only Lovers Left Alive
22 Jump Street
’71
Locke
12 Years a Slave
Under The Skin
Calvary
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Edge of Tomorrow
What We Do In The Shadows

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So there we have it.

What’s your favourite film of the year? And what’s on your ‘to watch’ list?

My top TV shows of 2014

Golden age indeed. These days, TV is up there with film in terms of quality of story, well written and believable characters and – in some cases – almost cinematic production values. And this year was a mightily good year when it came to a night on the sofa with the latest ‘must watch’ show.

From crime and fantasy dramas and zombies everywhere, to Victorian witches and oversexed vampires, here are the shows that rocked my world and floated my boat this year.

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Penny Dreadful: season 1
With a cast including Timothy Dalton, Eva Green, Harry Treadaway and Josh Hartnett, this show surpassed expectations with a host of intriguing characters and powerhouse performances, particularly from Green. Every time she went into possessed demonic mode the show went up a few notches.

Fargo: season 1
Martin Freeman as a timid insurance salesman from Minnesota up against Billy Bob Thornton’s enigmatic mobster hitman. As an idea for a TV show this was perhaps an odd gamble, yet one that paid off. No doubt down to the superb writing and outstanding performances. Freeman again proving to people just how good he really is.

The Leftovers: season 1
There’s so much beauty in grief and suffering, yet it’s rarely shown in such a captivating manner. Here it was brought to life by Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta – with a fine lead performance from Justin Theroux – in a story that charted the lives of a group of people, following the disappearance of 2 per cent of the world’s population.

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Game of Thrones: season 4
As the Starks, Lannisters and all other families grow further apart, each on quests of their own, the story and world of Westeros and beyond expands. This makes it tougher and tougher for the show’s writers and creators, still they deliver, with possibly the most visually stunning and emotionally engaging season so far.

Walking Dead: season 5
As it stands, we’ve only had the first half before the show hit its mid season break. It’s been good though, watching Andrew Lincoln’s Rick Grimes slowly but surely lose his humanity, as he’s faced first with cannibals then just the general dregs of mankind that seem to now inhabit the earth and plague him at every turn.

The Strain: season 1
File this under ‘guilty pleasure’ TV. From the creepy and fantastical minds of Chuck Hogan and Guillermo del Toro, this show (which started life as a novel, then a graphic novel) has vampires portrayed as parasites, causing chaos in New York as a small band of average heroes try to stop them, with varying degrees of success.

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Homeland: season 4
With Brody (Damien Lewis) out of the picture Carrie Mathison (Clare Danes) took centre stage this season as Chief of Station in an increasingly volatile Pakistan, on the hunt for terrorists. With drones, torture, kidnap and diplomatic backstabbing, this latest outing proved to be a marked return to form.

Forever: season 1
More guilty pleasure TV, this time in the form of a sort of mashup of Highlander meets CSI with Ioan Gruffudd’s immortal medical examiner solving murder cases in New York. Given the morbid subject, it’s an upbeat and easy watch. Thanks in part to the breezy chemistry between Gruffudd and his detective partner, played by Alana de la Garza.

True Blood: season 7
The final hurrah for this show was something of an anticlimax – or a least more of a sombre tone than its predecessors. However you have to give it credit for the seasons that went before, yet it just didn’t have the same verve and bite (ha!) after the show’s creator, Alan Ball, left after the fifth season.

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True Detective: season 1
McConaughey at the height of his powers turned his attention to TV for this deeply intense, brooding miniseries. One where he played the maverick detective to Woody Harrelson’s more straight arrow (albeit, with problems of his own) cop, both tracking down a serial killer over a period of many years.

24: Live Another Day
Despite a concern knawing away at you that this show probably should have ended some time ago, it’s risen from the ashes… so we’ll have to live with it. For the latest season it halved the number of episodes for a leaner, tighter story, with Jack Bauer legging it around London looking for people to beat up.